Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Professor Beckles: Ten-Point Plan makes a case for reparatory justice

Victims of crimes against humanity and their descendants have a legal right to call for reparatory justice. As such, the CARICOM Reparatory Justice Committee has come up with a ten-point plan of action, which outlines the path to reconciliation and justice for such persons.

According to Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, Pro-Vice Chancellor and Principal of the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus, who serves as Chairman of the CARICOM Reparations Commission (CRC), the CRC sees the persistent racial victimisation of the descendants of slavery and genocide as the root cause of their suffering today. What’s more, he suggested, the CRC recognises that the persistent harm and suffering experienced today by these victims as the primary cause of development failure in the Caribbean.
Chairman of the CARICOM Reparations Commission (CRC),
Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, Pro-Vice Chancellor and Principal
of the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus,
as he spoke at the press briefing.

During a press conference convened in the new administration building of the Cave Hill Campus earlier last week, Professor Beckles noted that the Heads of Government of the region met in St. Vincent and the Grenadines on March 10, this year, to discuss amongst other things the first report of the CARICOM Reparations Commission. As part of its recommendations, the report contains a procedural path to be taken for reparatory justice, in the form of a document entitled “Caribbean Reparatory Justice Programme: A Ten-Point Plan of Action”.

“The Commission has focused on the continuing harm and suffering of people in the Caribbean as a result of the 300 years of slave trading and slavery, in addition to the 100 years of racial apartheid that followed emancipation. Our focus has been on three specific aspects of the crime against humanity – the transatlantic slave trade, the chattel enslavement of African peoples and the hundred years of racial apartheid, which was put in place by European governments in the Caribbean after emancipation legislation,” Sir Hilary commented.

The recommendation is that European governments have the responsibility to put to an end this continuous harm and suffering, as they were the legal bodies that instituted the framework for developing and sustaining these crimes. They also served as custodians of criminally accumulated wealth.

The CRC asserts that European governments have refused to acknowledge such crimes or to compensate victims and their descendants. As such, the ten-point plan calls for: (1) A Full Formal Apology from these governments as opposed to “statements of regrets” issued by some; (2) Repatriation, since over 10 million Africans were stolen from their homes and forcefully transported to the Caribbean as the enslaved chattel and property of Europeans, and as such, the descendants of these stolen people have a legal right to return to their homeland; (3) An Indigenous Peoples Development Programme to rehabilitate survivors; (4) Cultural Institutions through which the stories of victims and their descendants can be told; (5) Attention to be paid to the “Public Health Crisis” in the Caribbean, which sees the region having the highest incidence of chronic diseases, which stems from the nutritional experience, emotional brutality and overall stress profiles associated with slavery, genocide and apartheid.

The other points include calls for (6) Illiteracy eradication as the British in particular left the Black and Indigenous communities in a general state of illiteracy; (7) An African Knowledge Programme to teach people of African descent about their roots; (8) Psychological Rehabilitation for healing and repair of African descendant pop-ulations; (9) Technology Transfer for greater access to the world’s science and technology culture; and (10) Debt Cancellation to address the “fiscal entrapment” that faces Caribbean governments that emerged from slavery and colonialism. (RSM)

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